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United Friends’ Challenge multiply group

Circus Kill

This arose from a challenge from CelticFrog to use within the same story three elements: a clown, an elderly Russian spy, a bar of soap

In the barren back lands of Australia, many years ago, an outback community was buzzing with talk of a circus coming to town in a few months. Sited in the middle of desert land, serving cattle stations that were bigger than Texas, the little town (which refused to be considered a mere village) was a focal point for gossip, ordering supplies, and the outback radio network. Four main buildings made up the “town” – a blacksmith and hardware store, a general store and postal station, a school house, and the pub. Lining the dirt track through the town and out into the desert were about eight or nine houses – seven if you only counted those in which someone actually lived.

The maiden-aunt figure of the school teacher (Miss Nadia Vokova) was given distractions by questions about circuses, as they’d never been to one nor even seen one. In the dusty dry book shelves in the back room she found a story book with pictures showing a circus, and she made sure the class learned what to expect when the circus came to town.

She arranged for the educational school’s airwaves host to cover the circus as a topic. Children living ‘way too far to come into town for school would hear of the circus through the radio grapevine, and want to know more about it too, before deciding if it would be worth calling the plane in to bring them to its performance.

Early on a typically dry morning, as Miss Vokova crossed the road from her school house to the general store, she saw the jeep drive away towards the landing strip, having just dropped off the weekly mail. She opened the store’s door and went to the stationery area, seeking large paper sheets and powder-mix paint for the school.

“Hey there, Miss Vokova, you just call if you need any help there,” the store keeper Blue Jackson, greeted her as he hauled packages and envelopes from the green canvas mailbag.

“Thanks, Blue, I will need help later with delivery of a few things,” she answered “Carry on with the mail, don’t mind me.”

“Righty-oh, Miss,” and he began piling, sifting and sorting. Soon the mail was sorted: one pile to be delivered by his black boy to the town addresses, one pile of envelopes that would wait for near farmers to collect on their weekly ride into town for supplies, and one pile for the local airplane to drop off at the distant stations.

She moved on towards the fabrics at the back. She wanted to sew a new dress for summer, and started pulling cloth bolts partially from the stacks.

“D’you need the missus, there?” called Blue.

“Is she busy? I’d like some advice from your wife.”

“Sweet-‘eart? Sweet heart! Customer in dressmaking, love,” he hollered.

Mrs Jackson bustled through the curtain hanging across the doorway into the back half of the store, where their living quarters were. The women were busily comparing patterns, measuring Nadia, comparing fabrics, selecting, matching and gathering the notions – buttons, threads, lace trim – when Blue’s voice  (always rather loud) roared even louder.

“Ya-bloody-hoo! They’re here! The tickets are here!” he held up a cardboard packet. “And posters too! And give-away balloons! It’s really on. It’s on, alright!”

“Ah, you’re a big kid yourself, Blue!” his wife called to his retreating back. He was off to tape a poster onto the store’s window, then the pub, the blacksmith’s, the horse trough … anything vertical.

“As soon as he’s back, he’ll be on the air telling everyone the tickets are in. He’s worked so hard to get that circus to agree to come out all this way, he has to sell every ticket, Daft bugger,” she said lovingly to Nadia.

Nadia wandered the store, collecting a few household items: a can of Brasso, a pack of two bars of Sunlight, two new dusting cloths and another kitchen knife – one with a long, thin blade for cutting easily through the Cheddar. She paid and carried the household items back home. Blue’s boy, Arunta, would deliver the school and dressmaking items, neatly wrapped in brown paper and string tied, later in the cool evening.

Just as the kids were ready to come inside again as lunch break ended, Arunta came jogging over the road, carrying a rolled tube of paper.

“Missy Vok! Missy Vok!” he called.

“Hi there, Arunta,” she greeted the lad.

“Mr Blue, he says your school kiddies can have a poster too, Missy,” and Arunta held out the tube. As she took it and thanked him, he continued “And don’t worry about this morning’s shopping, Missy. I’ll be coming by at end of the day, like always.” He grinned broadly, and scampered back to the shop.

‘For a lad of only eleven, he’s a good kid,’ thought Nadia. ‘No parents, lives alone in Blue’s spare house, and works hard all day for anyone with a job for him. Pity he hasn’t a chance of coming to school.’ She meant that at his age, he would not be able to catch up with the farming children already in school. If he were younger and had a sponsor instead of parents who’d left him behind when they went walk-about, there’d be no problem.

She unrolled the poster inside the classroom after making space on the pin-board by moving other pictures. She stood back and read it:

Caged Lions, Tigers –
And, New To The Country’s Circus Circuit
The Asian Tree Leopard!

Clowns!  Trick and Show Ponies!
Jockey Races Around The Ringside!
Fire-Eater Feroni! The Incredible Smithson’s’ Stilt Team!

Trapeze Artistes Monica And Michael!
And Did We Say Clowns?
The Mechanical Car! The Fire Truck!

Blinky? Her heart skipped a beat. Surely, not her Blinky, still chasing her after all these years? It couldn’t be – after so long, he’d be dead by now. She peered at the art work of Blinky the Clown. No, it wasn’t her Blinky – the makeup was wrong; she knew a clown’s makeup was registered and never changed.

But she didn’t look at that poster again unless she had to.

– – – – – –

Blue had sold every ticket there was by the time the road-train arrived with the circus. Blue suggested a patch of ground behind the pub, but the circus owner refused, and so they set up the tents behind the blacksmith’s. Nadia allowed the school children to watch them finish setting up in the morning after they’d almost completed everything during the night. Of course, the kids all had to write a report on what they’d seen, just to keep it “educational” as an experience. The children were all disappointed, and felt sorry for Miss Vokova – she was the only person they knew who’d missed out on buying a ticket, so she wouldn’t be going.

– – – – – –

At home during the evening of the circus’s single performance, Nadia listened to the traditional circus music and the excited cheers of the crowd.  She felt restless, and left her seat by the open window, went into her back room and pulled a large trunk from beneath the spare bed. She dusted it off then went to her room to find the keys to the locks: two different keys, to confuse anyone trying to get inside without her okay.

She flipped back the lid, and carefully unfolded the tissue layered over the contents. Her formal evening gown, worn in London. Her sensual cocktail dress and sandals, worn in Prague. Assorted business suits and elegant casual clothing, plus the black closely fitting body suit and nylon boots, perfect for night stealth. The alligator skin clutch purse, in which her fake passports were tucked (the currently ‘real’ one was in her top drawer of her china cupboard), along with small wads of banknotes from each country in which she’d ever worked. No Roubles of course. Her orders had always been never to try to go home again. She lifted out the cardboard shelf that held all the innocuous clothing.

Below was another set of memories. The gun she’d been issued by the KGB – useless now that bullets for it couldn’t be bought in Australia for neither love nor money. The Glock she’d lifted from the New York police station front desk, and the box of bullets. The New Zealand Police 590A1 model Mossberg shotgun with 16 inch barrel, and the boxes of cartridges. Three kongos. The shiv she’d had to make from a six-inch shard of broken glass slotted into an eight-inch handle of bamboo, in Vietnam. She took one kongo, and used it to twist her hair up on top of her head. She pulled the Mossberg and cartridges out, repacked the trunk and slid it back away out of sight.

In her sitting room she fetched the silencer she’d made years ago, from its place in the pantry, and checked the Mossberg’s action, loaded it and fitted the silencer. She slid it under her two-seater couch and sat listening to the National ABC radio broadcast, although her ears were alert for sounds from the circus site and the perimeter of her house.

The show ended, and there was a seemingly endless parade of people, buggies, carts and tractors hauling sleds past the house. Then, only the sound of the roustabouts packing the trunks of the troupe and pulling down the tents. The performers would have headed straight to their compartments in one of the road train trailers.

As she expected, before long after silence fell, there was a tap at the window – timid, but audible above the chirruping night crickets. She walked to the window and opened it wider, nearly taking off the head of the figure crouched under the swinging frame.

The moonlight was bright enough to show her it was indeed Blinky. He’d have been aged about sixty-five, by now. He was balding (so perhaps that explained the new makeup clown face), slightly stooped, but as always elegantly dressed, in a sports jacket and trousers – though still wearing clown-face.

“Come in, Blinky,” she offered, and stepped back to give him room to use the window, which faced away from the road. He reached up to the sill, and somersaulted into the room over it. He stood brushing imaginary creases out of the clothing.

“A drink together, Miss Nadezhda Sergeyevna, for old times’ sake?” he offered as he drew his hip flask from his inside jacket pocket. He flipped off the two tin cups covering the lid, unscrewed the lid and poured a generous nip for them both.

“Za vashe zdorovye!” they toasted in unison. The vodka was a good Stolichnaya, and Nadezhda held out her cup for another.

“So, you are still chasing me,” said Nadezhda. “Even now, when neither of us could harm a living soul, nor each other. And still after all these years, I do not know why. So, it’s time to tell me.” She gestured they should sit, and carefully manoeuvred him to the one seat that did not directly face the two-seater.

“It’s simple. I’ve been trying to stop you,” he said.

“From doing what?” she pretended innocence, knowing it would infuriate him.

“From chasing around the world, adding to its troubles by following directions from an agency that is now impotent and no longer has a hold over you.”

“I know the KGB is only a shadow now. But its replacement still forbids me from going home. So, I live here now. I am not an active agent any longer. I’m a fair-dinkum Aussie after fourteen years here. I teach children, I grow vegetables, I cook and clean for myself. The only difference between here and Russia is – I’m free here. No one knows what I have done. And Australia is much warmer than Russia.”

She paused and accepted a third cup of Stolichnaya.

“And why does it matter to you, what I do and where I live?” she asked, and eased her position on the couch, closer to the edge as if to listen carefully.

“To me, it does not personally matter. But to others, your existence is still a threat to their political or financial welfare. And they are my friends. I help my friends, Nadezhda. After these years of no contact, we can forget our past conflicts. I can be your friend, and you can be mine.”

“And these other friends of yours. They are…?”

“Austrian, Kurkhistani, Algerian, Palestinian … places –“

“- places all over central Europe, the Middle East and old Russia,” Nadia finished for him. “And how close to correct would I be if I guessed … old KGB?” She saw his tell – the twitch in the corner of his mouth. Blinky was there for only one reason.

She raised her hand casually to her hair, and removed the kongo. It was a small but heavy one; she could hide it in her hand. He realised her next move a split second after she made it. As the kongo spun through the air to crack his temple open, he reached into his pocket for the stiletto he always carried. But she already had the shotgun out, and was moving in closer.

(‘The longer barrel and getting in close makes for a narrower scatter,’ the voice of her instructor came back to her from years ago.)

Standing over Blinky as he scrambled up to his feet to face her, she fired directly at him. Two shots – one to make him hurt, one to finish him.

She felt his carotid pulse – not a twitch. Taking his stiletto – a fine Italian silver engraved ebony handle – and the Mossman back to her back room, she stowed everything away in the trunk.

She tipped Blinky’s body out the window, into the flower bed below. She fetched a bucket, a rag, and a new bar of Sunlight all-purpose soap, and removed all signs of the little bleeding from Blinky – most of his blood was soaked into his suit.

Outside, she washed all the clown-face from him. She stripped him down to his singlet and boxer shorts, and stuffed his clothes and leather shoes into an old hessian sack, which had last carried potatoes.

Blinky’s body she then dragged across to the circus cavalcade, where, beside the caged wild cats, she cut up and fed him to the lions, tigers and the tree leopard – a pretty wild cat, that one.

Over the next couple of days after the circus road-train had left – the owner annoyed by Blinky being missing – Nadia spring-cleaned her house, for the first time since buying it years ago fetching old junk from the ceiling crawl space, from under the house, from the back of old closets. Blue obliged by letting her have some large cardboard banana boxes. One of the school pupils’ Dad offered to come and haul away her rubbish, and drop it into a deep pit he wanted filled in, before he lost cattle or a child down the natural shaft.

Nothing was going to interrupt her retirement now. Not while she could help it.


nahDYEHZHdah for woman spy = Nadezhda
Sergeyevna = middle patronymic name with feminine ending
Vokova – = wolf’s; surname with feminine ending

vodka brand = Stolichnaya vodka

The Party’s Over – writing in song titles

Diane’s on the telephone … calling friend after friend

“It’s Saturday night and it’s my party! … Come on over!”

Saturday night and Sunday morning. The door’s still open. … Oh, just a commotion nothing’s planned – ”

“Yeah, at this ol’ house. Don’t be stupid, not tomorrow night!”

– – –

There was a pounding on the door.

“Hang on! I hear you knocking!”I called as I went down the hall to open it. There stood a pretty woman and a young girl, behind them a crowd of beautiful people – male and female. They crowded in, chattering, some bringing their poison of choice. I directed one fella in a fedora to the bathroom – “Green door, down the hall.”

“Hi, you can call me al,” he said, passing me his paper bag of bottles in his rush.

“What’s to drink?” someone yelled over the noise. Susie, my other flatmate, pointed to the counter

“Tequila, gin & juice, red – red wine, streams of whiskey, TNT for the brainwhatever,“ she yelled back.

“ Hey, everybody, let’s dance,” shouted someone at the stereo, and soon the music’s blaring and everybody’s jumping.

Al came back and grabbed his paper bag. As he drew out a bottle, he winked “Little ol’ wine drinker, me.”


An argument broke out over in a corner.|
“Stop messin’ around!” the woman, Rhiannon, yelled.
“Oh, come outside,” pleaded the hopeful young man with her.
“I owe you nothing!” she argued.
“Baby, please don’t go.” Realising he was losing her, he grabbed her, held her close.
“One more time, I’ll tell you – never too close!” and she pushed away. “I’m going home.” Rhiannon stalked out.
“Okay, you can go your own way,” he called after her. As an aside to a mate, he muttered “She’ll keep coming back, you’ll see.”
“Ha-huh, boy she’s too hot to handle for you!” His mate laughed.
“Nah, it’s just a phase.”

Someone interrupted the music, and slipped in a different CD.
“I can’t dance to that crap,” he said “Watch what happens now!” And ho boy, everyone was on their feet, and wriggling and writhing, solo, partners, the conga line – you name it, it was “Everybody dance now!” He played the CD again – had it on Repeat, probably. Even on the second time, there was a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on. But after it had played over and over, people retired to couches and corners for conversation and b-s or a breather. – – –

If you could lip read as I can, you’d make out how some couples were trying to make out, if you know what I mean.

“Hold me,” one young girl in a corner.

“Man’s favourite sport. Let’s go away for a while,” a greasy sleaze ball all over some sweet thing.

“Oh, come on, everybody plays the fool,” another try-hard.
One more time then,” a reluctant reply.
Turn around,” fumbling for the bra hook.

Couples started heading off to more discrete places – thank heavens, it was getting embarrassing in here.

Al suddenly called out, “Hullo, the bitch is back!” as Rhiannon stalked back in, trying to be indignant, but for her it was crying time.
“See? You keep coming back!” crowed her boyfriend. He noticed she was upset, draped an arm around her shoulders, and said ”No more tears (enough is enough). Tell me what you want me to do?”
“Let’s get outside of this,” she replied.
“Okay, we’re going home to your place,” and they strolled out into the night.

– – –

In the wee small hours of the morning, Diane called |
“Okay, bar’s closed. Nothing’s left, it’s time to go – the party’s over!”

“Wake up, little Susie,” I shook her shoulder. She started up, and shambled to her room. Almost everyone started gathering up their coats and bags, and heading to the door. Diane checked who was walking, who was driving, and who was going to have to stay over.
She asked them all, “How are you going?”

“No place to go”, mumbled one. “Homeless.

“Step inside, love,” and she pushed him back into the lounge.

“Goin’ back to Houston”, mumbled one fella. “Leavin’ on a jet plane – gotta ticket to ride here, somewhere,” as he searched his pockets while teetering away off along the footpath.

“I’m at the Y.M.C.A,” and the student stumbled out the door and down the steps.

Al smooched up against Diane, grabbed her and as corny as you please, said
“Wherever I hang my hat, that’s my home,” and dropped his wee fedora onto her head. She sighed and led him to her room, leaving me to check the state of the party-leavers. One young man was holding his head with one hand, his gut with another.

“I just wasn’t made for these times,” he said in misery. “I’m going home.” He stumbled down the steps and threw up in the gutter.

“Don’t worry about me. I’ll find my way home.” Someone confidant and merry pushed past me and off.

”Can I stay over for Danielle’s breakfast? Aw, she makes such yum bacon, eggs ‘n’ pancakes with maple syrup! What time will she be up and cooking?” Some scrounger who knew Danielle.

“Probably 11 a.m,” I told him. At the description of the breakfast, one guy started making retching noises.

“Quick, he’ll have to go!’ warned the scrounger. We got the puker off the property just in time.

By now the flat was nearly empty of wakeful party guests. Almost everyone in the place was flat-out asleep, alone or in pairs (in their own rooms, thank heavens). I left them to it and joined Danielle. We slept nestled together like a couple of spoons – but all we could do was sleep off the party.

– – –

We all woke the next day late of course. It was a good day, sunshine. Diane, Susie, Danielle and I roused all the overnighters to get them to help clean up. Hell ain’t a bad place to be, but shite, there was mess everywhere.
We’re gonna need gumboots!” Diane raved when she saw the state of the toilet, bathroom and kitchen. It’s beyond understanding how people can make such a mess!”

As friends zombied their ways from their sleeping corners, they needed pain relief.
“Who wants to live forever?” groaned one guy. Paracetamol was all we had to offer.
“I’ll take five.” And they went down his throat dry. Al was holding his head. He sat at the kitchen table and Diane gave him water.
Ain’t that a kick in the head!” he marvelled at the pounding.
It’s the booze talking, that’s all,” she reassured him. “That’s just the way it is, you know.”

“Have you seen the bathroom? Someone’s puked into the bath and it’s gone all down the window!” Susie was disgusted. “Something must be done!”
“Right, while we’re waiting for Danielle’s breakfast, I’ll be cleaning windows. It’s what I do.” And the guy – who was that? – was out filling a bucket, then back through with a mop and an armload of bottled cleaners.
“Okay, let’s all clean up” ordered Diane. “Fix these things,” as she pointed to the trash on the tables in the lounge. “Don’t stop until it’s spotless again.”
“Yeah, it looks like we live in a dump.” I had to agree – it was a right dirty old town in here. “Let’s take out the trash.”
As I carried the first dumpster sack out through the front door, I stepped over someone lying on the front step. I nudged him with my foot, but he was too deeply asleep. I asked the others
“Hey, who’s the dweller on the threshold?”

But in the kitchen, everyone’s attention was on another party sleeper who’d shown himself – in really bad shape.
“Oh, Take me to the hospital. I need to see Doctor Roberts.” Danielle took a break from the frying pan, and called triple-one, and sat him on the back step in fresh air.

– – –

We did get the place bearably clean, and were looking forward to Danielle’s breakfast as the ambulance arrived. But we didn’t hear or see them at the back. I went out to the front.
“Ah … the Guy who’s sick is out back?”
“Yeah? Well the guy who’s dead is here out front!” the paramedic retorted. There was no need to tell all about it – my mates had all heard him from the kitchen. They came crowding around the door, to see who it was, what had happened, what would happen.
The ambulance driver heaved himself from his seat.
“I’ve called dispatch. Police are on their way. Did I hear you say there’s someone sick here too?” He followed Al around to the back door, and reappeared walking the crook fella to the ambulance.
A police car turned up. Out stepped an officer in uniform, and from the back a plain clothes man.
“Inspector Morse” he flashed his ID. “And Sergeant Pepper. This is a real tragedy. Young kids having a party and letting it get out of control. I expect it was an overdose. Come on Sergeant, inside.

He headed to the lounge and gazed around, smelling the air.
“Phwawh! Too many clues in this room,” the young sergeant grinned.
“Not that funny,” Morse snapped. He wandered around, peering closely at the counter and tables’ tops. In the kitchen he peered at the as yet unwashed glasses. Back in the lounge, he spoke to us all.

“I know there’s an answer here, and in your trash which my lads’ll be taking for a forensic going-over. Now, don’t talk if you’re going to tell me little lies. What ever you do – don’t!. We’ll be sending a crew in to give this place a right turn around. Don’t move anything. In fact, don’t move from here at all till they’ve finished up.”
We sat there, fearful. We’d had no drugs in the flat. If that guy had O.Ded, he’d brought it himself. Cocaine? The sergeant’s radio crackled. He stood in the hall and listened, then reported to the Inspector.
“Inspector Morse that was the constable at the hospital. The young man who was ill did have an overdose in his system. He’ll survive; they’ve sent a sample off to the lab for identifying.” And he strolled into the kitchen.
“That’s enough for me right now,” Morse said. “Sergeant? Let’s go. And you lot? Think. Think really hard. Don’t forget to remember anything that will be of interest.”

And he marched out, followed closely by his sergeant, leaving us terrified – until we remembered Danielle’s breakfast would only need heating up.


© Lynne McAnulty-Street, Rotorua NZ, 2011

United Friends Challenge #308

Words = 1762 (Titles not Included)

Song titles =113 (First mention only is counted)

Title : Word Ratio = 113 : 1762 = c. 1 : 15.6

Ever Been Had? – a UFC challenge

309 Ever Been Had? Sumax’s Challenge:

Ever been had?

Write me a story concerning a con-artist, or a hustler. … No word limitation.

I was finkin’, vis is gunna be ‘ard to write abaht, cos no one’s ever been able ter con or put one over me an’ I c’n spot an ‘ustler a mile orf. But ven I turned it rahnd in me ‘ead, an’ like, you know, an’ looked at v’uvver side – me, doin’ ve ‘ustlin’. So I’m gunna tell yer abaht ‘ustlin’ me bruvver’s boss.

See, once ev’ry year come summer, I’d drive my ute for me bruvver, loaded wiv ‘is mo’or bikes, spare gas cans, ‘is set-a levvers an’ all, up ter Tahpo* to stay a weekend wiv Frank ‘n’ Rosey. Frank always ahs’ed us to come up and bring bikes, so he an’ me bruvver could do a day’s trail ridin’ up over ve back ‘ills of pumice an’ scoria. Rough country, too rough for me.

Me bruvver was always dead keen ter go, ‘cos wiv winter rain, by summer all ve ‘ills an’ trails’d be diff’rent from las’ year. Like, rain used ter soak dahn inter v’ grahnd ‘n’ wash out underground channels vat would collapse in, and v’ top runorf ’d wash loose pumice an’ scoria dahn inter streams. Ve ‘ills get in a right mess, I tell ya.It was a sorta competition b’tween Frank an’ me bruvver, Frank ‘avin’ been me bruvvers boss. Nah, me bruvver owned v’ bike shop, and them two was allus testin’ each uvver.

We’d get to Frank’s on v’ Frid’y nigh’s, ‘ave drinks an’ kip over. Early on Sat’d’y mornin’ vey’d take orf b’fore v’ sun cracked, orf up inter ve ‘ills. Rosey allus let me sleep in, an’ bring me a cuppa mid mornin’. We’d laze arahnd, I’d  drive ‘er inter tahn fer winder shoppin’ an’ when she wuz ‘appy we’d get back ‘ome. I’d dig over ‘er garden, clear back some of v’ bush over v’ fence, generally tidy up arahnd v’ section till Rosey called me in fer lunch.

After lunch she’d go org for a nap, an’ send me dahn to v’ garage below stairs. I’d go dahn and into Frank’s pool room. Akshally it’s a full billiard table ‘e ‘ad, an’ a righ’ sweet one at vat.  Bu’ me, I can’t play snooker nor billiards, ter save meself. But I’d played a bit o’ pool at our dad’s sometimes.  So I’d spend ve ‘ole afternoon practisin’ shots from all sortsa angles, like. On me own, jus’ to get me eye back in, get the lay of v table an’ v’ feel for ‘is cues.

By v’ time v’ sun would be just at its last crack in v’ sky, v’ lads’d be back – all tired, ‘ot an’ sweaty, shaky from v’ bikes vibra’in’ under vem all day. We’d crack a col’ beer each, an’ Frank bein a gen’tlman would send me bruvver up for first dibs at v’ bahth an’ an ‘ot spa. ‘E’d stay chatt’n’ wiv me, ‘avin’ a smoke and a coupla whiskeys (I’d sit  vem aht and stick to beer).

An’ I don’ care ‘oo knows it nah, ‘cos, Gor love ‘em, Frank ‘n’ Rosey ‘as passed on nah, so no ‘arm done. But, back ven, I’d ‘ustle ‘im.

I’d rack up v’ balls, make a botched break, sulk ‘n’ sigh – an’ Frank’d fall fer it ev’ry time, v’ ol’ dahlin’. ‘E’d step up…

“’Ere, lad, I’ll show you which ones you could’ve still potted.” An’ ‘e’d sink a few. I’d frow ev’ry turn I’d get, an’ lose.

“One more rahnd, Frank? Fink I’m getting; v’ ‘ang of of it nahw,” I’d say, rack ‘em up an’ take ‘im on again. I’d let ‘im play anuvver winning rahnd, but careful like I’d start makin’ some “improvements” shall we say. An’ v’ ol’ dahlin’ would allus suggest a third rahnd.

“One more game, lad. You’re getting’ better ev’ry time,” ‘ed say.

“Nah,” I’d say, “I’ll only lose again, like.”

“I’ll pu’ a fiver on the table fer you winnin’ this nex’ game,” ‘ed say, and slap a fiver on the table sill.

An’ I’d go all shy an’ quiet, like, an’ act like i didn’ wanna play, but I’d always pu’ me own fiver dahn b’sides ‘is. An’ when we’d play, I’d always lose on purpose, so’s ‘ed lose ‘is bet an’ I’d win the ten.

“Really thought you’d take that round,” ‘e’d be sayin’.

“’Vis time, I’ll pu’ a tenner on v’ table for me to win, an’ you c’n win th’ play, aw’righ’?” I’d offer, all gen’rous like. An’ ‘e, bein’ a righ’ gen’leman, like I said, would not only take th’ bet, but let me make th’ break. Talk abaht givin’ it away!

I’d shoot a perfek break, droppin’ one, an’ go on ter drop all me shots an’ wipe v’ table clean in one turn. Twenty back in me pocket, easy like. An’ we’d still be playin’ for cash right frew till Rosey called ‘im from upstairs to growl.

“You can reheat your own dinner, but let that young lad get to bed. They’re driving off in the early morning!” Poor ol’ guy, as if ‘e could ‘elp bein’ competitive.

Bu’ I can’t skite abaht bein’ a good player, like. I mean, ‘e wuz old – real old, sixty-five or summat like, ya know – an’ ‘ed jus’ spent a day bein’ jolt’d an’ bumped, tryin’ to keep up wiv me bruvver over real rough grahnd, gettin’ shatter’d by vibrations an’ shocks an bumps in ‘ollows an’ over jumps. An’ e’d be on whiskey while we wuz playin’ till it was late an’ ‘e wuz tired.

‘E’d always ask for a rematch on v’ Sund’y, bu’ I’m no mug nah an’ I wusn’t ven. Fresh on a Sund’y, ‘e’da wiped v’ table wiv me. So I always went ‘ome a bit richer van I’d arrived, I tell you – poor ol’ Frank – always bein’ ‘ad.

© Lynne McAnulty-Street, Rotorua NZ, 2011

* correct Māori spellling = Taupo

SUFFFERING SJOGRENS’ – no adjectives

Write a poem or short story  describing someone or something
without using any adjectives.


She had aged beyond her years.

Sand. It felt like sand everywhere. In her eyes which could not weep. In her nose which could not recognise odours. In her mouth where without saliva, all food turned to sand and grit, and taste-buds sensed only the taste of nothing. In her place of pleasure, sand scratched and grazed, erasing the pleasure, replacing it with pain. In her joints, sand grated where cartilage should have smoothed movements.

It was as if she’d swallowed  Silica Gel. She was drying up from the inside outwards. Her skin would soak up quantities of moisturiser, without any change effected.

Now, her dryness was affecting her teeth. Without saliva, decay was rampaging from tooth to tooth, almost in pace with her dentist pulling them. As do sufferers of “Sjogren’s Syndrome”, she had a mouth that made her appear to be a Meth addict. She’d resolved to never smile. Her cheeks were beginning to hollow. Her hair was like bristles. She refused to pose for a camera, not while looking as if she were to drop dead as the shutter clicked.

Oh, the dryness. The sandiness. The grittiness. Oh, how she wished it would end.

(c) Lynne McAnulty-Street, Rotorua NZ, 2011

My Eulogy … (a U.F.C. challenge)

Thank you all for following my last wishes, and avoiding a chapel or church for a funeral. We’re having a full twenty-four hour wake, instead. There should be Guinness galore in the kegs, and good single-malt Irish at the bar, and other choices readily at hand – if not, just ask.

Lying here at home the last day has let me see and hear just who counts me and my family as friends. I’ve had a few surprises to see who else has turned up. I’m tickled pink to see former pastor David Cole here. David, if you want to cut me short and take over the eulogy, then feel free – you’re the only pastor I’d have do it.

My Dad and I used to wind up Mum by talking about what was wanted for the body disposal. We’d joke – “One rubbish sack pulled down over the head, another pulled up over the legs, and staples where they meet in the middle.” She’d go mad, but Dad and me, we’d laugh – ‘cos we know.

That body you’ve looked at in the other room – you haven’t? Don’t be a woose, come and see me – it’s only a lump of meat. It’s not me any more. And I’m off to either a barbecue, or a garden, so this is it – our last time together.

If you’re looking for me, look to the thousand-near children I’ve taught. Look to my collection of music, my books. More especially, look to the native trees and plants I’ve grown and given, to attract, feed and shelter our native birds. Look to how each time I got ill, I tried to bounce back.

Don’t look at the remnants of too many arty-crafty hobbies I’ve tried; forget the times I pulled a prank on you; quit fussing about my use of “bad language” when I got angry or depressed.

In a moment we’re breaking out the song and the dance and the bar. I’ve chosen my favourites, most of which you’ll have heard.

  • I’m Going Home from Arlo Guthrie
  • For memory of my late Dad, Wonderful World  from Louis Armstrong (see you soon, Dad)
  • Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door from Bob Dylan
  • From a Distance from Bette Midler
  • Full Force Gale from van Morrison
  • Whenever God Shines the Light  from van Morrison & Cliff Richard
  • Spirit in the Sky from Norman Greenbaum
  • Body of an American from The Pogues
  • Shine on You Crazy Diamond  from Pink Floyd
  • Stairway to Heaven from Led Zeppelin
  • to annoy me sister, Tub Thumping from Chumbawumba (because you never know, this may be my ultimate “get up again”)
  • for me daughter, Thunderstruck  from AC/DC  (I’ll miss your party-time phone calls, sweety)
  • and for me son, a fan of Slash (if not Guns ‘n’ Roses), Sweet Child Of Mine

Enough with the blathering – Cry! Laugh! Drink!
To the Corrs, U2, The Pogues, The Dubliners, Chris Rea, et al. Let’s Sing! Dance! Rock!
Now hit that Play button …

Twisted Fairy Tales

Snowey & the Three Bears

Through the twitter of bird song, and her sleep, Snowey heard the tramping of feet. “Great”, she thought, “Bumble-tum’s not alone.” She pushed off the coverlet, swung her feet off the couch and into her dainty shoes. She smoothed her hair, brushed down her skirt, rubbed her teeth clean with salt from the table, and stepped out to see.

From the forest, in line, came dwarves, carrying their lunchboxes, and assorted tools – shovel, pick-axe, grubber, and one box marked [XXX – DANGER]. There were seven, singing some little witty ditty as they came. Until they spotted her. They stopped, those in the rear bumping into those in front.

“ ‘Ere – ‘oo are you?” demanded the oldest, wiping his arm across his nose.

“Ugh, what are you?” Snowey cheeked him back. “I’m Princess Snow White, but you may call me Snowey.”

“ An ‘you c’n call me Gramps. Watchoo doin; ‘ere, ven?” He came closer – right close –the others shuffled forward after him, moving  to get a good look.

“I have nowhere to go. Please, may I live here, with you handsome dwarves’?”

Gramps wanted to know more.

“ ‘Oo sent you out nowhere?” he demanded. “An’ where’re you s’posed to be headin’, then, eh?”

Snowey lowered her face, looked up at him through her eyelashes (as all good princesses know to do) and whispered “To a nunnery, sir. But my escort has abandoned me, and I am alone”.

“Well, if you can cook, an keep up wiv seven sets o’ laundry a day, you can stay. No sleepin’ upstairs but. We’ll find you a place for yerse’f”.

_  _  _  _  _

She never admitted to the dwarves, but Princess Snowey had flirted so often with men within palace and town, her worried step-mother Queen Rolly had her followed by the chambermaid, who brought back a list of a week’s dalliances.

“These are those I recognised, Your Majesty,” she bobbed a curtsey and handed a paper over.

“Oh, my word!” gasped Rolly. The list read names from royalty down through palace staff and military ranks to a stable-boy and a blacksmith’s bellows boy!

To keep Snowey’s chastity safe, Queen Rolly ordered her servant, Bumble-tum, “Escort Snowy directly to the nunnery farthest beyond the deep forest.”

Riding together through the forest all day, Bumble-tum realised – he would miss the Fair and Festival!. He detoured and brought them to a cottage. Inside, it was reasonably clean, maybe dusty on the floor; seven small beds on a mezzanine. Bumble-tum suggested she rest on a small settle under a sunny window.

“I’ll ride back to town, and let a friend know I’ll be away for some time,” he said.

“The Fair and Festival having nothing to do with this at all, of course,” chuckled Snowey.

“Oh, no, your Highness, not at all,” he lied. “I’ll be back early tomorrow.” He wasn’t.

_  _  _  _  _

It was more work than she’d expected – but, better than any nunnery. Snowey became adept at reading each dwarve’s preferred leisure and meals. She carefully catered for Gramps – he might change his mind at any irritation. She swept, dusted, baked, tended gardens, prepared their crib (no, not their bed; the miner’s tin box of food and water to eat under-ground ). She learned to make bees’ wax candles for their helmets, and to check oil in their lamps.

The dwarves were appreciative, bringing her flowers, fresh wild berries, a singing bird in a cage… and smiles –  lots of smiles. Gramps was beginning to guess why she’d been on her way to a nunnery. Gramps especially noted the time Hunky spent with her – but could it be a surprise, as they were falling in love?

One day, Snowey drew Hunky aside to the edge of the clearing. “Hunky, I have to talk to you,” she murmured. As they neared the log seat, he guessed what was coming next. (How could he not? He’d been sneaking downstairs to her for many a night.)

“When’s th’ bub to arrive?” he asked, slipping his arm about her waist and giving her a reassuring squeeze.

Gramps may have been the eldest, but his hearing was the sharpest. “Wossat? A bub? You got ‘er up th’ duff, di’n’cha?” and he slapped Hunky up the back of his head. “Well, missy, that’s yer lot, Soon as bub’s arrived, you’re outa ‘ere!”

_  _  _  _  _

Months later, with baby in a basket across her back, Snowey, wandering the forest,  stopped in a clearing, to feed Hank, and rest.

She heard rustling, snuffling, breaking twigs underfoot – when three bears pushed out from the undergrowth, she screamed. Her only experience of bear was watching a carcass brought in for butchery and feasting, or listening to hunters’ tales of bears’ ferocity.

She scrambled backwards, dragging Hank’s basket with her, hoping to slip away into the forest.

“Hush, love; we’ll not hurt you”, soothed the medium-sized one. ”Have you seen a girl, with tawny, curly hair, probably a bit scruffy after running for three days?”

“No,” Snowey said. “Who is she, and why chase her?”

The other two bears laughed. “Chasing her?” said the smallest “We’re trying to bring her back home.”

“She’s our housekeeper – has been since we caught her. Broke into the house, stole Bubba’s food, broke his chair, slept in his bed and tore the covers. She’s been working off the damage ever since. She took off, said we’d held her for long enough. But in the wrong direction; her home’s back the way we’ve come, past our place.”

Hank started to cry, and Snowey, felt herself beginning to tear up too. Momma Bear lifted Hank’s basket and rocked him back to sleep.

“Oh, you poor wee thing – a mother and so young. Come back to our house; you can live there till baby’s outgrown the cot. Bubba, you can get it from the attic.”

“Yeah”, said the largest bear “You’ll be doing Goldie’s work from now.”

_  _  _  _  _

Just then, Snowey was relieved to see Gramps and Hunky arrive. They’d followed Snowey to make sure she was safe. Bears and dwarves introduced themselves, and discussed the erratic and irrational behaviour of human housekeepers.

The dwarves had decided –Hunky was going to start building a cottage for his own family – Gramps orders. Snowy threw her arms around Gramps’ neck and kissed him on his bristly cheek.

“’Ere, Snowey, ‘ang on – that’s wot got you in this mess inna first place! Cor, settle

dahn, girl” Hunkey was definitely embarrassed by Snowey’s display of gratitude.

“Mr and Mrs Bear, I’ll be happy to bring Hank to your home and keep house, while Hunkey builds our own place”, Snowey remembered her court courtesy well. She curtsied, picked up Hank’s basket and followed them to their house.

_  _  _  _  _

Two days later, at the Dwarves cottage, as they were eating the fresh bread (Snowey had taught Greedie how to bake) and honey (a gift from the bears) there came a timid knock at the door.

Stumpey stumped over to open it. There was a young girl, with tawny-blonde curly tangled hair.

“Yer, watcha want ‘ere,” Stumpey managed around his mouthful.

“I’m lost, and don’t know which way to go. May I come in and rest the night?” she pleaded.

“Oy!” Gramps called. “You th’ girl called Goldie wat did hahsekeepin’ for them Bears?” Come on in, girl, an’ lessee wot we can find for you.”

© Lynne R McAnulty-Street, Rotorua NZ, 2011